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Avior Byron

My name is Avior Byron and I am a musicologist, blogger and composer. I write books, articles and a blog about music, performance, research, and theory. Read more at my about page

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The Schoenberg Archive in Vienna

There is something quite amazing about the Schoenberg archive in the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna. The people there are so helpful. They give you the impression that there sole aim is to provide you all the information that you are seeking for. This is not the case with most archives. Some archives want to preserve documents but do not really care whether or not you will find what you need there. A few archives are even hostile to researchers. The Schoenberg archive in Vienna is not only friendly, they go out of their way to provide you all that you need and even things that you never thought to ask for. Schoenberg’s children who moved the archive from USA to Vienna say in an interview that I conducted with them that they are happy from the move and how the whole project looks today.

One of the great things about the archive is the fact that one can find so much information on their website www.Schoenberg.at . You can find there letters, scans of original manuscripts and letters, concert programs, and much more valuable information. You can even hear a web radio and listen to historical recordings. If you ever go through Vienna make sure that you visit the archive where you can see Schoenberg’s working room, find a big library and usually also see a changing exhibition on Schoenberg. The Schoenberg Center also orginizes exihibitions around the world as well as educational programs for childrens. It grants scholarships for scholars and orginizes concerts (this is not supposed to be a comprehensive list of the ASC activities). In any case it is quite clear that this organization is well managed and probably also well funded. 

One of the reasons that I discovered new things in my PhD and my recent research on Schoenberg is due to the help I received and still receiving from the Schoenberg Center. If you are looking for a subject to research on, whether it is a PhD, MA or an article, you can be sure that if you do it on Schoenberg, you will have lots of resources in your disposal. There is still much material in the archive that was not explored. This gives a scholar a chance to discover new things and contribute. When people contact me concerning the articles that I published on the Schoenberg recordings that I discovered, I refer them to the archive in order to obtain copies of these recordings (I am thinking here about the test pressings of Schoenberg conducting Pierrot lunaire and the broadcast done with him conducting the same piece). I am looking forward to working with the archivists of the Schoenberg center now that I am working on my book for Oxford University Press.

 

How to become a freelance musicologist

Being a freelance musicologist: if Mozart did it - also we can!

I have discussed the problem of having a music or academic career. Since I made a decision of living in Israel, my academic opportunities have dramatically diminished. The situation where a country gradually kills its academic music life is true not only for Israel but also for other countries such as Germany. However, I have spent a large amount of my life experiencing and studying music and I do not intend to end my carrier at this point. In this post I will discuss how I plan to challenge my situation and embark, at least temporarily, on a freelance musicologist path.

I was lucky to do a PhD in Royal Holloway, University of London with John Rink. This university has lots of funding and I cannot imagine a better supervisor than John Rink. The result was many funded research trips to the Arnold Schoenberg Archive in Vienna. I conducted several trips to conferences. I spent lots of time in the British Library (and other smaller libraries such as the Senate House in London), which is the biggest library in Europe. The work with Rink was extensive and extremely helpful. Moreover, from the four years that I did my PhD, two if them were devoted completely to studying and in the rest I worked only part time. This, as well as hard work on my part, gave me the opportunity to write a piece of work that several parts of it were published in important music journals such as Music Theory Online. It is also the reason why I received a contract with Oxford University Press, to write a book on Schoenberg’s writings on performance.

My PhD work served as a spring board for future research. Apart of the book on Schoenberg’s performance writings, where I will serve as an editor, I plan to write another book on Schoenberg and performance, which will be based on my PhD and research that I did thereafter. I have written an article on Op. 33a and performance during a two months Postdoctoral research trip to Berlin. I just returned from Manchester where I gave a paper on Schoenberg’s and Adorno’s performance aesthetics. I will be an Edison fellow during August 2009 and I will stay in the British Library working on Pierrot Lunaire Op. 21 and performance. I have also conducted an interview with Schoenberg’s children that might enter (at least part of it) the book. All these events serve as deadlines for doing research while I actually work during 80% of my time in a family business as a general manager of a translation company and language school.

It is not easy to bounce between the two careers. Yet also music academics usually need to juggle between a teaching post and a research post. Only in France (as far as I know) there is separation between those who do research and those who do teaching. One needs much discipline, long term planning and faith in oneself.

Discipline

The natural this would be that the family business would gradually take over my time. However, this business is also a source of money that helps me embark on research trips and attend conferences (giving a successful conference paper is not a simple task). For example, in order to give a conference paper in Manchester I had to pay much money for traveling to London and for accommodation (the conference kindly paid for train traveling and waved to conference registration fee). I am glad that I could do this trip since it forced me to write something that will probably turn out to be another chapter in my book on Schoenberg and performance. I also attended the CHARM conference in Egham a few days before the conference in Manchester. The CHARM conference was about recordings and performance and was extremely interesting (it was also wonderful to return to my university after two years!). During my student life or during the period that I worked at the Bar-Ilan University in Israel, I could never afford to do such expensive trips on my expense.

In healthy music departments, such as Royal Holloway, if one does not publish, one finds him of herself without a job. Working as a freelance musicologist needs much discipline. One must make sure that there is funding as well as deadlines in order to keep on writing. One of the things that can help is long-term planning.  

Long term planning

Publishing a book is a big project. This is true especially if one has a double career. Although I am not 100% clear about the structure of my book, I do have at this point much material for this project. It is clear to me that my first priority should be to finish editing the book for Oxford University Press, and only then finish the second book on Schoenberg and performance. The point that I am trying to make is that such long term project are very helpful in keeping one going as a freelance musicologist.

Faith in oneself

I was luck to be raised in a family where I was always told that I was talented and received much encouragement in every path that I have chosen. Moreover, John Rink and other people in RHUL gave me similar support during and after my studies there. Without firm belief in my abilities and talent I would not be able to do this research. A freelance musicologist must have belief in the importance of what he of she have to say and write. It is perhaps good advice to stay close to people who believe in you and distance yourself from those who do not.

Plan you time carefully

One cannot do everything (at least not in a professional level). If you believe in your abilities as a musicologist and trust that what you have to say will be interesting and important to other people, invest your time in this. Do not let other things interfere in your work. This might sound strange from someone who has two careers. My solution is to have certain periods (weeks and sometimes months) where I do only musicological research. I can do this because I have a translation company of my own. Other creative solutions can be found.

Open a website and a blog

The internet is a great place to meet people. This is important for at least three reasons: (1) Publishing opportunities – meeting the right people and letting them know about your work can help your find publishing opportunities in the future. You may be approached to write a book (this is how I received my book contract from Oxford University Press), or a book chapter; (2) Receive feedback on your work – I developed my best ideas from interacting and receiving comments from people; (3) it is fun to meet interesting  people and see what they think about your work or blog post (feel free to comment in the form below).

A music website and a musicological blog help to foster an identity which is somewhat fragile outside the official academic context.

Find a community

Since I became a freelance musicologist I was interested to see whether it is at all possible and other people do it. I found that there are people who do it. The conductor and violinist Antony Beaumont does not live from doing musicology. Yet he writes great books on Zemlinsky, Busoni and letters by Mahler.  

Conclusion

Being a free lance musicologist is not simple (yet also academic life is not a bed of roses). If one has a good background, contacts, discipline, ability for long-term planning as well as faith in oneself, than it is indeed possible. Only time will tell whether I will be able to continue my plans in being a freelance musicologist.  My first goal is to finish the two aforementioned books of Schoenberg.

 

 

How to write a book review

There are several reasons why to write a book review. It is a good way to gain experience in writing. Publishing reviews is easier than publishing articles. One is not expected to contribute something completely new to the world of research. When you submit your review to a journal you usually receive feedback from the editor and that can improve the level of your writing. Another reason is that it may help you learn the book more thoroughly than if you would just read it. Good writing is a form of teaching. When one teaches something, one remembers it forever. Moreover, this is a way that other scholars in the field (especially the one whose book your will review) will know you and what you think. In other words, this is a way to start making a name in the field. Finally, if you where asked to review a book, although you will probably not be paid for it, you will receive the book. In this post I will mention some of the things that can help you write a good book review.

Read the book

If you decide to write a book review, it is highly recommended to thoroughly read that book that you are reviewing. The person who wrote the book invested in it an enormous amount of time and effort and you would like to be fair (see also the following point). Moreover, other people who read the book will read your review. They will want to compare their view of the book to yours. If you will not read the book thoroughly they might feel it from your review. This might result in a bad impression.  
 

Read review written by others

The best way to learn how to write is to carefully study how the giants do it. Scan the publication lists of scholars that you admire and find their reviews. Read some of these reviews and analyze them. Write notes about the strategy of their review, the structure, the tone of voice, and other points that you think that are significant.
 

Do not be too critical

One of the tendencies of young scholars (but not only young ones) is to be too critical. In order to demonstrate their abilities and perhaps also because of lack of confidence, many behave in what may be considered an over critical manner. If you are at the beginning of your carrier as a scholar, it may be wise to be aware that such a tendency could be also part of your behavior (at least to a certain extent). Try to accept that other people may have different views or perspectives of music than you have, which are not completely wrong. If you find something that you want to criticize, do it in a gentle manner.
 

Balance your criticism

Never write a completely negative review. It is important to balance your book review also with positive remarks. This will show that you are able to see the benefits in the book. There will always be some people that may benefit from reading the book. Try to ‘speak’ to them when you write the positive arguments. People who write too many negative reviews may not be asked in the future to review book.
 

Show your personal reading

Beware from writing a review that will be only descriptive (the first chapter contains… the second chapter contains… etc.) Make sure that you mention your opinion about the important part of the book. Although over criticism is something that you would like to avoid. Being not critical at all is also problematic.
 
Showing your personal view of the book or some of the issues in it may make your review more colorful. People are interested in personal perspectives and interpretations. Make sure that yours will sound clearly.
 

Be helpful

Try to keep in mind that many people are reading your review in order to know whether or not to read it themselves. It will be helpful if you point out things in the book that are interesting. If you thing that this book may be of interest to some people, make sure that you mention it at the end of the book. It can be useful to mention to whom you think the book may be interesting. 
 

Listen to the comments of the editor

Editors are usually experienced scholars. When they will send you comments, make sure that you read them very carefully. Pay attention to both comments on writing style and arguments. Reading their comments one by one and thinking about them is a great lesson for improving your writing.
 
Do you have any other points that you think that one should remember when writing a book review? Have questions? Feel free to comment on this post in the form below.

 

 

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Music University on the web

Being a young music scholar in Israel is almost impossible. In other counties it is also very hard. A few words about the situation in Israel, which could serve as a case study. There are only five small universities: Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv University, Haifa University, Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva, and Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. There is only one musicological department in Jerusalem which has only four scholars who are there on a permanent basis and there is something almost non existent in Bar-Ilan. In Tel-Aviv the department was closed about two years ago because some, of I have heard, played with the University’s money and lost it in the stock exchange! Haifa and Ben-Gurion have no department of musicology. Moreover, the tendency to cut budgets in social sciences makes the future not very optimistic.

How young scholars react

The reaction of young music scholars is one of the three: (1) build (usually false) hopes that one day they will be part of one on the few Israeli music departments. Some of them even agree to teach for free (I know this as a fact in the Bar-Ilan music department)! (2) They leave Israel and go to work in America or Europe; (3) They give up the profession all together and keep it as a hobby.
 
This is a grave situation since it casts doubts on the future of Israeli’s music culture. I have written in a post Some thoughts on the Israel Musicological Society’s website  that without people writing quality books and article on music, our music culture will slowly die.
 

Teach and write on the web

What can one do about this situation? Here is one idea that might work. Imagine that you could make a course on the web. Let say, a course about Harmony or the history of music. You would sit down once a week for several hours and prepare your course/s. Then you will write down the main ideas of your lesson in a text that will about be 500 – 1500 words long (or longer if you like). As time will pass you will find that instead of 5 or 10 people sitting in you class, as one can find in real universities in Israel, you will have 30 people reading your lesson every week and commenting and asking questions. As time will pass (let say two years) there will be 300 people every week reading and reacting to your each of your lessons.
 

Teach music for Money

Moreover, you will receive some money from the advertisements on the pages of your lessons. So from the long-term perspective, the web will pay you more than most universities pay these days.
 

The problems

Music scholars are usually not technical people. They find it hard to open websites like my own and some even fear technology. They are also not educated with relation to the internet world. Most of them are not aware that people spend more and more time on the web while music departments in universities are growing smaller and smaller.
 
Some scholars feel that the web is only for common people. They feel that high level writing and good ideas can be found only in scholarly music journals. My personal experience is that there is lots of rubbish on the web and in music journals. One can occasionally find very interesting things in music journals, and equally – on the web. The fact that leading music department are opening online music journals is telling. You can find also intersting music links to website for scholars and search engines like google scholar and google books.
 

A possible solution

If you want to try to open a course on the web you are welcome to receive free advice from me on how to open your own website. You are also welcome to do it on my website, if your course subject is somehow related to performance, composition or theory of classical music. I welcome other fields like popular music, jazz, ethnomusicology, etc. If you decide to publish your course on my site you will receive all of the money from clicks on advertisements on your pages. You will receive detailed monthly information concerning how many people read your course pages, how long they stayed on the page and in what city in the world they live. Think about it: when you prepare one lesson in a class you receive a one time payment which is very poor. On the web you will receive monthly payments for years.
 
I am aware that blogging and courses on the web is not a perfect solution. However, I truly believe that the world of scholarship is going to change drastically during the next fifty years due to the web. Be one of the first people to join this revolution.

 

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Reading historical music documents in context: health or antisemitism?

One of the common mistakes of music students is to read letters, articles and other musical documents by composers, performers and musicologists, completely out of context. In order to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of what one reads, the reader must attempt to gain access to the context/s of the document. One can start doing so by asking to whom was the document written. The next second question could be: what was the writer seeking to achieve? Only these two questions may help avoiding many misunderstandings. To answer these questions, one often needs to do further reading of other documents. Further questions could help building a wider context: at what period was this document written? Are any of the key terms in the document being treated in a special way with regards to their history or the writer’s history? A practical example could help to understand what I mean when I say that a historical music document must be read in context.

On 13 February 1932 Arnold Schoenberg wrote Leo Kestenberg, who was music advisor in the Prussian Ministry of Education and the Arts, that he cannot return from Barcelona to teach in Berlin due to health problems. On 13 May 1932 he wrote another letter adding that his wife just gave birth to a baby girl. Yet on the 24 May 1932 he wrote to Dr. Joseph Asch that he is in Barcelona ‘for reasons of health, and on these grounds, but also because of political conditions, am very reluctant to go back to Germany at this juncture.’ Later at this letter he writes: ‘Will you see if you can get some rich Jews to provide for me so that I don’t have to go back to Berlin among the swastika-swaggerers and pogromists?’ (Arnold Schoenberg, Letters, ed. Erwin Stein (London: Faber and Faber, 1964), pp. 163-164)). The question is how should one relate to Schoenberg’s request not to return to Berlin? What was the real reason: health problems, the rise of National Socialism, both, or perhaps none of these reasons?
 
If one reads only the three letters written about one cannot really answer this question. It might be argued that he did not write to Kestenberg the whole truth since the latter was part of the establishment and would never accept such a reason as an excuse for not returning to Berlin. On the other hand, it might be claimed that Schoenberg did have serious health problems and that he was using the political situation in order to try to receive money from rich Jews in America (he received a negative answer). One could claim that no one really knew the real meaning of National Socialism at that time, and that the composer was simply seeking piece and quite for composing and living in a place that was good for his health. How can one determine what is the truth?
 
In order to do so, one must read further and try to understand the context. On 23 September 1932 Schoenberg wrote to Alban Berg: ‘Of course I know perfectly well where I belong. I’ve had it hammered into me so loudly and so long that only be being deaf … could I have failed to understand it. And it’s a long time now since it wrung any regrets from me. Today I’m proud to call myself a Jew; but I know the difficulties of really being one.’ (Ibid., p. 167). In other words, Schoenberg’s fear from the National Socialists was a real one.
 
I have seen a scholar writing about Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire and claiming that the composer would prefer that it would be sung in German. Schoenberg’s letters show that this is not the case. If you are starting your way as a scholar, it is important to remember that extensive, yet focused readings are important in order to interpret historical musical documents. When you read such a document, try to examine all possibilities of interpretation. See whether any further reading is necessary and do not hesitate to invest time in it. If you will do so, you will find out very quickly that your work is gaining authority and recognition.  

 

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How to give a successful conference paper

Giving a successful conference paper is not an easy task. I have seen more people fail communicating during conferences than people who presented their arguments in an affective manner. In my Review of the IMS conference 2008: what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music I promised to write about how to give a conference paper. In this post I will give several tips that might help improving a conference paper thus achieving better communication and a stronger effect.

Practice make perfect: read your paper before the conference and measure
Most papers are limited to twenty minutes (with additional time for questions). It is not uncommon to see scholars who do not finish their paper reading on time (I am speaking now about conferences that one reads from a paper). A simple way to avoid this embarrassing situation is to read the paper you plan to give a few days before the conference takes place, and measure the duration. If you measure the time it takes to read the paper you can decide to make changes accordingly. Take into consideration that the pace of reading during a conference is usually different than when you are more relaxed at home. It is better to leave two-three minute spare so that you do not feel in a rush during the reading. This will also give a more relaxed impression during your reading and motive more people to listen to you. I saw some experienced scholars to write on their papers instructions what to leave out in case that the time will run out.

Present your paper before family and friends and record it
It is very effective to gather a few people that you trust their opinion and read the paper before them. This could be an excellent way to prepare to the conference. Ask these people to tell you what they understood from your paper. Try that the audience will include people who have a potential to understand your paper and others who are not from the field of your study (perhaps even not scholars at all). Receiving feedback can help you understand how you look and what is actually being communicated to others. Recording the session can help you see how you are talking and this will surely help you improve.

Body language
Some people argue that eighty percent of what one communicates is body language. When you prepare your paper you can add performance signs that will refer to body movements that you would like to use in order to underline, illuminate or express the things you say. Take into consideration that movements are an excellent way to keep your listeners listening to you. With one an unexpected movement you might gain the attention of people many people who are otherwise lost, dreaming, or asleep. Yet it is important not to be rude or too sudden – you do not want to achieve listening, yet cause a bad effect on your lecture!

Using power point
If you decide to use power point or any other visual presentation of text, make sure that the text size is greater than 18 and that there are a relatively little number of words that are presented. The power point presentation (unlike the hand-out) is useful for two reasons: (1) it gives the listeners an orientation in case that they get lost during your lecture (trust me, this happens all the time); (2) it gives you structure to your lecture. Do not present table with lots of data that no one will see. In other words, keep your power point text very short.

Check that everything is working before the lecture
Make sure that you will have time before the paper giving to come to the place and check if everything is working. Check whether people can hear you. Check whether the person at the last row can read your power point presentation. Check whether people can hear your sound examples. Make sure that you feel at home (as much as possible).

Keep your ideas simple
Take into consideration that when one reads a text, one can stop and think about it, change the pace of reading, return to the text, etc. During the paper you give, people will not have the possibility to do so. This is why keeping the ideas simple and even repeating them (something that you would like to avoid in an article or a book) is important.

After you give the paper
Do not forget to speak to people that heard your paper in the conference. You will learn an important lesson on what you actualy managed to communicate and what not. Ask more than one person so that you will be able to receive more than one perspective.

Relevant posts:
The difference between a poor critic and a good scholar
How to write good texts about music

Review of the IMS conference 2008: what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music

Please believe me when I write that it was one of the best conferences that I have attended. Due to traffic jams I missed the first hour of so of the IMS conference. I heard two papers: one by Shulamit Marom and the other by Alona Sagi. Both were very interesting. They made me think, and this is something that I cannot say about many of the papers that I heard in other conferences. Moreover, they both presented sound recordings, and this is something that is often absent from discussions about music. You probably all know the lectures that speak about music in a highly detailed manner, assuming that everybody knows about what performance you one is speaking about, and neglecting the act of listening to the recording with the audience.

Shulamit Marom made a distinction between “Mandate songs” that were written in Tel-Aviv and other that were written in the “Yeshuv” (elsewhere). David Halperin suggested that making a distinction between the two categories will not stand scrutiny in many cases. I have little knowledge about Zemer to know whether Halperin is right. I did wonder whether our contemporary thinking of Tel-Aviv as a “bubble” that is disconnected from the rest of Israel, especially in relation to the territories and the second war in Lebanon, affected the categorization that Shulamit Maron suggested to us in her research. Anyway, Shulamit Marom’s presentation was very clear and enjoyable. It is possible to see that she is a very gifted lecturer.

Alona Sagi examined the improvisation of Miles Davies in “Walkin’” during the 50s and 60s. She observed that as time passed there was a change from “vertical thinking” to “linar thinking” on the one hand, and a tendency towards “free jazz”, on the other hand. She mentioned the presence of young and experimental musicians in the 60s as something that stimulated this change. Sagi’s transcriptions were impressive and it was fun reading them while listening to the music and hearing her comments. I am using the word “fun” on purpose, since enjoying a paper is something that should be taken for granted. It was a pity that she did not manage to finish her paper due to time limit. Although she blamed it on technical issues of handing the CD, I think that a well prepared paper would predict such problems and avoid them. In the next few days I plan to write a post on “How to give a paper in conferences: useful tips”. I wondered whether there are more social and cultural issues that affected the technical change that Sagi described in the performance of Miles Davis. I enjoyed listening to this music after so many years.

After that session, there was a general meeting of the society. It was sad to see how much money was spent on the internet site of the society. Prof. Edwin Seroussi rightly argued that three years ago it was reasonable to pay such sums for buliding a website, while today websites (at least ones on the level that was presented) are constructed almost for free. I plan to write a post about the IMS website and what I see as possibilities for the future.

The second part of the conference was devoted to “what there is and what there is not to read in Hebrew in Music”. I could not stay until the end of the conference. I had to leave an hour earlier so I did not manage to hear the paper given by Prof. Judith Cohen and people that spoke thereafter. This session was simulations very interesting and disappointing. It was fascinating to see how people deeply care about the miserable situation that there are almost no books to read in Hebrew (most of them are not updated and out of print). Some of the comments were truly illuminating (I will come back to them in a moment).

The “paper” given by Gila Flamm was disappointing. It was mainly an improvisation that amounted to a presentation of “facts” by browsing through items in the National Libraries catalog. There was little information given on the nature of the books that were mentioned, and of the frequency that people read them. There was no attempt to categorize the types of readers and the various manners that people read Hebrew books on music. There was no discussion on the history of institutions approaching the library for such books. Is this information not available?

The paper given by Elisheva Rigby had few interesting points. She said that we must be able to explain to ourselves why writing about music is essential to Israeli culture if we wish to convince others. Her argument was based on the idea that any knowledge and culture are based on discourse. She mentioned the myth of the composer at the top of the creative musicians, the performers as those who could not compose, the conductors as those who could not play an instrument, and the musicologists and critics at the bottom of the hierarchy, the perfect impotents, as those who could not do anything but talk. This myth, as Rigby said, is based on the idea of “originality” that is initiated from one source. Postmodern views demonstrate how the construction of meaning is done in a social network. In other words, the hierarchy is different and every cultural agent contributes in potentially significant ways. It seems to me that the myth of the “genius composer” is, unfortunately, sustained also among many musicologists in Israel and the world. This is why performance is regarded by many as a marginal and unimportant activity in relation to composing. The composer Zippi Fleisher said in the conference something like “what can one do, it all starts with the composer, and then one performs it, and then one writes about it”. This is an old fashioned and anachronistic view of what is happening in musical culture. Beethoven would never be famous if it would not be for music critics and musicologists who wrote about him and elevated him as a Romantic icon. We would not hear Beethoven the way we do, and he would not symbolize what he does, without the words that were written on him.

In my blog there is a poll asking why there are almost no books on music in Hebrew. Many people blamed it on the academy who demands that books will be written in English. Prof. Don Haran speculated in the conference why is it possible that the French and the Italians would never think writing in a language different than their own, and we seem to find it natural to write in English. This comment was thought provoking.

Prof. Yoash Hirshberg explained how disappointing it was to find that his book on Paul Ben-Haim is not available anymore. He was especially disappointed that his publisher Am-Oved did not find it important enough to keep a few copies of the book. He compared the Israeli publisher with Oxford University Press that published one of his books in two prints and then kept an electronic copy for anyone who might be interested. There was bitterness in his voice from the attitude of Am-Oved, whom he called “a commercial publication house” and he ended his comment by saying that in the present situation he has no motivation for writing anything more in Hebrew.

As mentioned about, I could not stay for the last session. The first session of the second part, which I just described, was not well organized. The speakers were not well-prepared (in England it is considered not serious to give a paper without reading from a text that was prepared in advance). Elisheva Rigbi gave herself too much liberty in commenting on the comments of others, something that took too much time of the session.

This session, was however, successful. It was interesting for me to hear the comments that some of them I have mentioned above. One of the fascinating comments in this session and the one before, were made my Prof. Ruth Katz. She stressed again and again that we must define our goals before we take action. It is useless to speak about low attendance of members and that fact that there are almost no students who find it important to attend the IMS conference (I agree that they must be forced to attend by making their presence obligatory for finishing their studies), if the IMS in general and Min-Ad in particular do not define their goals. With goals well-defined much can be achieved with limited energy. Without it, one is lost. It was wonderful to hear that an evening is organized in honor of her 80th birthday.

The conference, it seems to me, was successful. I wounder if any practical points for action were defined during the last session. It would be useful that in future conference smaller groups will be organized in round tables so that there will be more space for interaction. In any case, it is wonderful that Elisheva Rigbi, Rivka Elkushi and others initiated and organized this conference on around this important theme.

I will be glad if anyone who attended the conference will comment on it or on what I have written above. I am especially interested in knowing what happened in the last part that I could not attend. One of the reasons that I opened this blog is to attribute to the Israeli discourse on music. My assumption is that if we want a discourse to occur we must actively contribute to it. So please take a few minutes and comment by filling the form below or by sending me your comment for publication in this forum.

Related posts:
Here it comes מה יש ומה אין לקרוא על מוסיקה בעברית
Call for papers “What there is and what there is not to read about music in Hebrew”
Response to Dr Elisheva Rigbi’s second comment: are we normal?
Why my Blog is in English: an answer to Dr. Elisheva Rigbi
We seem to fail doing the very same thing in music

See also
Article on the conference published in Achbar Ha-Ir

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Postgraduate scholarships for music students

One of the purposes of this site is to collect useful links for music (and other) scholars in Israel and the world. I have recently added a category to my research links page. The new category is called: “Postgraduate scholarships“. This page contains links to many very useful postgraduate scholarships. As usual, I tried not to make a list of everything, but to collect only the most interesting and helpful links. You can find in this site information about how to write a research proposal that may enhance the chances that you will receive one of these scholarships.

How to become an excellent scholar

I think that anyone who cares about his work should strive to be an excellent scholar. Here are some thoughts of how one might achieve it.

Keep your contacts
I read somewhere (a few years ago) that I well known musicologist (I forgot his or her name) one suggested that a scholar should keep his contact book well organized. This piece of advice is worth gold. If I have achieved a few things in the past few years, it was a lot due to contacts that I kept. Yes, you must know to do the work. However, keep in good contact with people that are aware of your work, can recommend your work to others and might offer you things when they turn up

Think about your goals
Know what is interesting for you, what is important in your eyes and to where you are heading. Excellent scholars are long run swimmers. All your work should be structured around your goals. It is good here and there to reexamine your goals and to let yourself do things that are completely unexpected or unrelated to your goals. This might help your creativity and it might help you benefit from new discoveries. However, a scholar without clear goals is like a ship without a captain. Keep this in mind when you prepare a research proposal.

Methodology
When you read the works of others think not only about what they say but also about the methods they use to do research and to present it. Methodology is a big issue. Good methodologies are the key for major discoveries and achievements.

Pray to God
It is true that one needs to work hard to be an excellent scholar. Luck however is also very important. You should be in the right place and in the right time, and speak to the right people. Go to conferences. Be friendly. But most important, pray to God.

The difference between a poor critic and a good scholar

In my post “Musicology, Science and Postmodernism” I asked:

So what is the difference between a poor musical critic, who may speak about food when writing about music, and a musicologist who is supposed to transcend personal subjective metaphors and speak with slightly more authority?

This post is an attempt to answer this question.

Solid Evidence
Scholars are supposed to support their arguments with solid evidence. The more solid it is the better job you do. Try to attack the problem from various angles and show that your arguments is working well from all (or most) of them.

Usually, an argument is built from several sub-arguments. Try to show that authoritative scholars around the world support various part of your argument. Authoritative scholars are those who are famous and usually are being quoted by many other people.

Making the extra mile
It is hard work to find solid evidence to your claim. You might need to contact archives and libraries on the other side of the planet. You probably need so spend much time in libraries and archives. You will need to write research and grant proposals in order to obtain scholarships for traveling to distant places (archives, libraries or field work). A good scholar makes the extra mile. Most people usually give up too early and do not know how close they were to success.

Dealing with criticism
A scholar is supposed to predict criticism and welcome it. Criticism is something that most people find hard to listen to. Yet, criticism is something that may help you support your argument or change it so that it will be more solid. One should find ways to overcome one’s defense mechanisms and learn from criticism.

Writing with authority
Make it clear from the outset of your document what you plan to deal with in this work and what is out of the game. Declaring the frame around your work his helpful in order to make your arguments solider and defense them from criticism.

Write with authority. Use less words that show doubt like “possible”, “I think”, “perhaps”; use more sentences that claim to say something very clear about how things actually are, according to your argument.

Having said this, do not present things as fact when they are not. It is completely fine to present things as partial of as issues that need further research. If you write with too much authority about issues that are not clear, you can be sure that other people will attack your conclusions.

Writing style
Constantly pay attention to the way experienced scholars write. They usually pay great attention to small details. Some people suggest to convert passive voice to an active one, or to eliminate redundancy. It is also useful to break up excessively long sentences. All this is true. However, there are many other tips that you can learn concerning your writing style. Read not only what people write but how they present it.

Have fun
Different people define “fun” is different ways. Nevertheless, if your readers will not enjoy reading what you have to say, that means that you have less chances to gain authority in their eyes. Be kind to your readers. Take into consideration their time and respect it. I do not suggest that you should write jokes in your research. On the contrary, non-formality is usually interpreted in a negative way. Yet you would prefer that people will enjoy reading what you write. If people enjoy doing things they usually learn from it more and interact with it in a more productive manner. This is why it is always good to choose a subject that you love for your research.

Critic vs. Scholar
I opened the post with the question concerning the difference between a poor critic and a good scholar. The truth is that it is not black or white. A good scholar is also a critic. Scholars say their opinion about what they write. They do not pretend to be scientists in an age where humanities are understood as something that must transcend “objective” inquiry. Moreover, a good critic is not just a person who spreads his or her subjective view. A good critic knows how to write well and how to build an argument. The best critics also know the scholarship related to their criticism. In other words, a good critic must also be something of a scholar, and a good scholar must be a critic.

Copyright Avior Byron 2017 .